Two murders, or suicide?
Sayed Abdullah from Sadat Shah Zaman Angoori in Jaghoori district was found hanging by his tonban string while in police custody seven months ago. An investigation by the Independent Media Consortium (IMC) Productions.*
He was arrested for being involved in the murder of his cousin Fatema, a resident of Gardan Bloo Dawood village from the same district. She was found hanging. The family said she committed suicide because she was not permitted to marry a boy called Omed.
Within hours, Abdullah and Fatema’s sister-in-law Masuma were arrested as suspects in the murder by Mohammad Ali, the then acting commander of Jaghoori security commandment.
There are two conflicting views of what happened.
The military department of the Deputy Attorney General’s (AGs) Office in Ghazni has ordered the Ghazni Security Commandment to arrest Mohammad Ali, Zafar Sharif, the district governor of Jaghoori, Ali Akbar who was in charge of the detention centre, Mohammad Humayun, chief duty officer, and Azim, Sulaiman and Mohammad Ali, who were all on duty the night Abdullah was found dead.
A letter dated Jan 4 this year from the same department has included two more names in the list of those it says must be arrested. Doodali and Bostan Ani are both from Jaghoori
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) spokesman Rafiullah Bedar says with growing insecurity the level of violence and murder has increased in Ghazni.
Sayed Ali Alawi, Abdullah’s brother, says his brother was murdered, and has implicated in the plot the district governor, acting police chief, head of counter crimes and the officer in charge of the detention centre.
“My brother’s arrest was illegal. It is not under the authority of the district governor. It is for the detective agencies to do. But the chief of police headquarters put my brother illegal in detention, and then hanged him. The law says that a person should be kept only for 72 hours in custody, but they kept my brother for six days. He was tortured, and kept in chains,” Alawi told IMC.
According to him, his brother has done no wrong but he was “hanged for political and ethnic issues”. He named four residents of the area – Doodly, Bostan Ani, Hajji Zaman and Yunus – as responsible for the crime along with the district authorities.
IMC interviewed the district governor Zafar Sharif who dismissed Alawi’s allegations of his involvement. “The arrest of accused individuals is the job of police and detective agencies. Not mine,” he said. He said he has informed “high ranking authorities” about the death of Sayed Abdullah, but he would not say who these officials were.
According to the governor, “No government office has summoned me. If I am summoned I am ready to go to the court but if the AGO wants me to be summoned without any investigation … I will not present myself.”
IMC tried to interview all the other accused but failed.
Finding the pieces
A delegation from the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoI) and AG’s Office travelled to Ghazni to conduct further investigations.
The 170-page report by the delegation, which IMC has got a copy of, has stated Abdullah’s arrest was illegal and based on the “intervention of the district governor and police chief”. The delegation concluded that since he was kept illegally in the detention centre, and there was no reason for suicide, his “murder was already planned and he was assassinated.”
According to the report, Fatema has killed herself, and the “claim of her murder by Sayed Abdullah is baseless”. The report states, “Fatema, a resident of Gardan village of Jaghoori district has hanged herself on July 21, 2013 due to disagreement over her engagement with a person called Omed.”
The report states that Omed was willing to marry Fatema, but her family, particularly her uncle, asked Omed to pay 500,000 Afs (8,750 USD) as dowry which was way beyond Omed’s means. He refused to marry Fatema.
“On July 20, Omed has gone to the house of Fatema’s brother (Sakhi) and told his wife that he was engaged to another girl, and Fatema should not wait for him anymore. When Fatema heard she called her brother in Kabul and warned him that she cannot marry Omed she would commit suicide,” the report adds.
IMC has seen a text message Fatema sent her brother, “Oh death! When you come to me, I want you to swear to tell the earth to turn my body into earth except my eyes because my eyes wait for someone called Omed.”
Fatema committed suicide at 4 pm on July 21. Her 19-year-old brother Yahya who found her hanging took her to a clinic where the doctors declared her dead.
A part of the report further states, “When the body of Fatema was taken back to her house, the police were told. The chief of police and the district governor went to the location and took away Sayed Abdullah as accused in Fatema’s murder.”
The report also provides the sequence of events leading to Abdullah’s arrest. “Masuma, Fatema’s brother’s wife called her husband and said Fatema has hanged herself. Sakhi called his uncle’s son Sayed Abdullah to go to where Fatema had hanged herself. When he reached there the police arrested him, and took him to the detention centre.”
IMC tried to interview Sakhi but he did not respond.
The delegation found that Masuma’s statement was recorded twice by the police. Three days after taking her first statement when she said Fatema had hanged herself, the police again questioned her. The second statement changed the story. “At 3pm Sayed Abdullah came to our house, Fatema and I were sleeping. He took me to another room and sexually abused me. Fatema saw us, and threatened to tell her uncle (Abdullah’s father). He beat Fatema, killed and hanged her by her shawl in the wood room.”
The police of Jaghoori filed the statement. Masuma has been sentenced to 16 years in jail on the basis of her second statement.
The delegation has no doubts the so-called “confessions” are false, and extracted under pressure by the police – acting commander Mohammad Ali – and the district governor. They threatened Masuma that if she doesn’t confess they would force her husband to divorce her, and send her to jail.
The report states Masuma was in her neighbour Shukria’s house from 2 to 4 pm working at her embroidery. “When she came home she found Yahya and Shukrullah, her uncle’s son, sitting in the yard. When she asked Yahya where Fatema was he searched for her and found her body hanging in the wood room.”
Shukria, Yahya and Shukrullah have each separately confirmed Masuma’s statement.
Abdullah’s brother Alawi has alleged the detention centre was cleared of other prisoners to prepare the way for his brother’s hanging.
The delegation has confirmed his statement. “Ali Akbar, the in charge person of the detention centre, was also not present the night the case happened. He left duty without informing anyone. On the night of Sayed Abdullah’s hanging other prisoners were freed.”
Ehsanullah Bayat, the new police commander of Jaghoori, says he has submitted documents in Ghazni court regarding Mohammad Ali, Humayun, Mohammad Hanif and Ali Akbar but the court has given them bail.
The report submitted by the AG’s Office and MoI said Ali Akbar and Humayun have left their jobs. But IMC found both were still working at the Jaghoori police headquarters. Mohammad Ali is at present administrative assistant in the same office.
Ghulam Farooq, the head of Ghazni military AG’s Office, said the investigations were complete, and the matter will go to court. The accused were freed after they gave guarantees. “The area is risky and we couldn’t jeopardize security by imprisoning all the senior authorities,” he said. “They have been freed temporarily, and will go back to jail during the court case.”
Ahmadullah who was head of delegation and had traveled to Jaghoori district did not give further details but told IMC the dossiers of the murder of Fatema and Sayed Abdullah, and imprisonment of Masuma were sent to Ghazni AGO last month.
“The governor is involved in the case, but his prosecution is not our responsibility,” he said.
Shukria Wali, the head of the women’s affairs department in Ghazni, calls on the judiciary to ensure justice is done.
* Independent Media Consortium is a joint initiative of Pajhwok Afghan News, The Killid Group (radio and print media), Saba Media Organisation (Saba TV-Radio Nawa networks) and Hasht-e-Subh. This story is part of a series of investigative reports on corruption and human rights cases.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.